Hardware

Austin, Texas this weekend hosted nVidia's Pascal GTX 1080 unveil event, headed-up by nVidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang and dotted with high-end demo rigs from well-known case modders (including BS Mods). The week's #OrderOf10 event prefaced tonight's press conference – a puzzle we solved just ahead of the show – and ultimately unlocked a count-down timer that unintentionally coincided with Dreamhack US. Tonight, nVidia announced its new GeForce Pascal architecture GPUs, including the GTX 1080 video cards.

The Pascal architecture was first unveiled at GTC a few years back, when nVidia's roadmap through 2018 was posted (concluding with Volta). Earlier this morning, we published a Pascal architecture deep-dive that fully detailed the new Pascal SM (Streaming Multiprocessor) and memory subsystem as it relates to GP100. Although GP100 belongs exclusively to the Tesla P100 Accelerator Card, Pascal as an architecture applies globally to the platform – and that includes the imminent GeForce cards. Pascal as it relates to GeForce is almost certainly running a “lite” version of the architecture, but will carry-over potential game-changers from the GP100. A 16nm FinFET process node from TSMC heralds nVidia's move away from the 28nm process that both major GPU manufacturers have resided on for the past few years. Other changes, like a reduction in cores-per-SM while increasing or maintaining warp schedulers and dispatch units, will work with this datapath organization change to improve overall efficiency and performance-per-watt of Pascal.

If this architecture discussion interests you, we'd urge you to read our deep-dive on Pascal.

(Article title & content updated).

How Much Bandwidth Does All of PAX Use?

By Published April 29, 2016 at 10:50 am

PAX East's show floor was flooded with as many attendees – if not more – as we've seen in the past five years, but this year marked a major milestone: The wireless internet was usable. Traditionally, the sheer size of PAX begins an onslaught upon the internet which is unsustainable by convention center networks. This year, the BCEC stepped-up its game with the Aruba WiFi project and went forth to release statistics on bandwidth consumption, active concurrent users, and total user count for the weekend. The project was a culmination of work from Aruba Networks, MCCA, and M S Ben Bow, and has been underway since 2014.

This also gives an updated idea as to the size of PAX. We haven't received numbers in years, but the show should be in excess of 70,000 attendees at this point. The wireless network is not, of course, used by every attendee (none of our staff connected to it with mobile devices), but it's still heavily saturated.

Here are a few charts:

The first “Ask GN” since leaving for PAX East, we delve into topics exploring voltage configurations for overclocking, AMD's Zen / Polaris architectures and the make-or-break pressure, alternatives to FRAPS in DirectX 12/Vulkan, and upgrades.

The questions are posted below the video with timestamps, as always.

For anyone interested in the final question in the video (paraphrased: “Should I buy Polaris or Pascal and sell my 980 Ti?”), you may be interested in our recent “Polaris & Pascal: Buy or Wait?” content we published.

PAX is always surprisingly full of PC gaming hardware, and we’ve run across a couple more items that aren’t yet available – but will be soon. PNY brought the newest addition to their red-and-black gaming suite, an overclocked Nvidia GTX 960, and OCZ came with an M.2 SSD, the RD400 NVME. Both devices are set to release sometime in May.

Gigabyte pleasantly surprised us at PAX East 2016 with a small set of unreleased motherboards. These boards will likely surface about the time that Broadwell-E is released – keep an eye out over the next month – so that means these are all prototypes and that everything here is subject to change. What we were shown appears to be a refresh of the Haswell-E and Skylake boards that are already on the market with the addition of U.2 support.

U.2 is a connector that the Small Form Factor Working Group (SFFWG) decided to rename in 2015. It was formerly called “SFF-8639,” and most of the people that were aware of it worked with servers. Part of the reason it’s making its way to desktop boards is that the form factor provides M.2 PCIe speed combined with the drive mounting flexibility of the old SATA cable. This means that you can have as many U.2 drives as your motherboard has U.2 connectors.

Logitech's gaming (“Logitech G”) unit deployed a clicky spectacle at PAX East 2016. The “Great Wall of Logitech G” flanked the booth, a composition of 160 keyboards capable of aggregated video playback across roughly (by eye) ~10 x 15ft of key caps. The display uses Logitech's G810 RGB mechanical keyboard with diffuser keycaps for the underglow. Partnership with Right Brain Electronics' Kent Suzuki made the wall possible on the software side, where video playback was programmed to location-match the appropriate keyboards.

A video explaining the making of the keyboard wall can be found below, along with some footage of the wall itself:

PAX East 2016 has a strong hardware presence, and the number of zero-hour announcements backs that up. MSI, Corsair, AMD (a first-time exhibitor at East), nVidia, Intel, Cooler Master, Kingston, and a handful of other hardware vendors have all made an appearance at this year's show, ever flanked by gaming giants.

Today's initial news coverage focuses on the MSI Aegis desktop computer, Corsair's updated K70 & K65 keyboards, and the AMD Wraith cooler's arrival to lower-end SKUs. Find out more in the video below:

Corsair’s recent Strafe RGB keyboards are among our highest-rated peripherals for gaming and typing. The Strafe RGB expanded Corsair’s RGB lineup and fixed some of the issues Corsair’s other RGB keyboards have. Corsair is once again expanding its RGB keyboard line – and standard keyboard line – with its new Rapidfire K70, K65 RGB Rapidfire, and K70 RGB Rapidfire. These keyboards are the same as Corsair’s current versions, but the new RAPIDFIRE iteration features Cherry’s new Cherry MX Speed switch, which actuates at 1.2mm (40% higher than normal Cherry MX switches) at 45g.

This fifteenth episode of Ask GN springs forth a few quick-hitter questions, but a couple that require greater depth than was addressable in our episodic format. These longer questions will be explored in more depth in future content pieces.

For today, we're looking at the future of AMD's Zen for the company, forecasting HDR and monitor tech, discussing IGP and CPU performance gains, and talking thermals in laptops. As always, one bonus question at the end.

Timestamps are below the embedded video.

ASRock routinely breaks rules with Intel – like with the SkyOC firmware hack that allows non-K CPU overclocking. In the latest breach, ASRock mentioned Intel's new Core i7-6950X Broadwell-E processor and listed some of its core specs. The CPU will be part of the line replacing Haswell-E (which was the first consumer architecture to host DDR4 memory) and the X99 platform.

Motherboard manufacturer ASRock says that the Intel Core i7-6950X will host 10 physical cores with hyperthreading (total of 20 threads). ASRock indicates that its existing X99 motherboards will be able to leverage a firmware patch to unlock support for Broadwell-E, meaning that HW-E owners may not have to upgrade motherboards if firmware hacks are available. ASRock's will be posted here.

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